Probiotics, which are also known as beneficial bacteria, are microorganisms that improve your health. These microorganisms can be consumed by consuming naturally fermented foods.
This beneficial bacteria is of great use to your body as it maintains good health. Research even indicates that these bacteria may reduce the chances of infections by improving the immune system and increasing metabolism.
Although no food can strictly be labeled as a probiotic, we can surely refer to foods with high content of gut-friendly bacteria as probiotic foods.
These foods play a very vital role in maintaining gut health and thus improving digestion. Other than that, they also improve heart health and are said to be beneficial for your skin and brain. So, to make sure you are getting the appropriate amounts of these good bacteria via your diet, we have enlisted the best probiotic foods for you.
Best Probiotic Foods
It is one of the most popular probiotic foods which is easily available and comes in a variety of flavors.
As per the research done on good bacteria and their potential to enhance dairy products, consuming fermented dairy products like yogurt could provide anti-diabetic, immune-modulatory, and anti-cholesterolemic health benefits.
Live cultured probiotic yogurt is highly ranked because it comes from animal sources that are mostly grass-fed and organic. It is made from sheep’s or goat’s milk, fermented by lactobacillus or bifidobacterium.
It is great for children as it can immediately restore the gut bacteria after taking an antibiotic course and prevent anti-biotic related diarrhea.
It can also ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. It may also be suitable for people who are lactose intolerant as the lactose is converted into lactic acid, which gives the yogurt its characteristic sour taste.
Tempeh is made from cooked and fermented soybeans. It is widely used as a meat substitute by vegans because of its chewy texture and high protein content.
Tempeh is rich in probiotics and it also promotes the growth of new gut microbiota.
It could be prepared by adding a tempeh starter to soybeans which are then left to sit for a few days until it forms firm patties.
These are then consumed with various dishes. Tempeh can act as a great probiotic for vegans who do not consume yogurt and other animal sources of probiotics.
Kefir is quite similar to yogurt as it is also a dairy product, but is made by a unique combination of milk and fermented kefir grains.
It is a traditional food which has been consumed for over 3000 years and the name means “feeling good”, The term has originated from the Turkish word “keyif”.
Kefir is fermented with yeast and about 10-34 strains of good bacteria which makes it high in probiotics and low in lactose. Thus, even lactose-intolerant people can consume it.
It is a milk drink that is said to reduce digestive problems and may even prevent infections and build a strong immune system.
Natto is a traditional Japanese probiotic food. It has a slippery texture and a distinctive smell along with a strong flavor.
It is made from the fermentation of soybeans and it is extremely rich in a very powerful probiotic Bacillus subtilis.
It has been proven to enhance gut health, improve your immune system, and increase the absorption of Vitamin K2. The high K2 mineral content present in Natto could enhance bone mineral density when consumed in regular diets.
Natto is also rich in a compound called Nattokinase which is an anti-inflammatory enzyme. It reduces the irritated lining of the GI tract and thus improves digestion as well.
Kvass is an East European drink that is traditionally fermented using stale rye and malt sourdough.
These days, it is also made using probiotic fruits and root vegetables like beets. Lactobacilli are used to prepare kvass and it is known for its liver-cleansing properties. Kvass has a mild sour flavor and is a good source of gut-healthy bacteria.
An animal study found that Kvass beverages can improve gastrointestinal functioning which could be due to their efficacy in regulating the short-chain fatty acid present in the colon.
Sauerkraut is made from the fermentation of cabbage and other vegetables using lactic acid bacteria. It is rich in organic acids and contains a variety of minerals.
Sauerkraut is not loaded with diverse strains of good bacteria but due to its high acid content, it promotes the growth of gut bacteria. Along with that, sauerkraut is easy to make at home.
But even if you decide to buy from the market, make sure to pick the unpasteurized one because pasteurization could kill the live bacteria and the food may lose its probiotic properties.
Kimchi is a famous Korean dish that is made with fermented Chinese cabbage along with other vegetables like onion, bell peppers, radishes, carrots, and garlic.
It contains a good number of beneficial bacteria, Lactobacillus kimchi, and other lactic acid bacteria.
Kimchi can be added to anything you eat and can be used to make famous recipes like Kimchi noodles, Kimchi fried rice, and Kimchi scrambled eggs.
Kombucha is a fermented black or green tea that has originated in China and Japan. It is a famous cleansing tea in Asia, known for its liver and blood-cleansing properties.
It is fermented using symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeasts also known as symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY).
A lot of claims have been made regarding the potential health effects of kombucha but no research-based evidence is present for humans. However, because of being a fermented food item, it does have probiotic properties.
Raw cheese made from sheep’s, goat’s, and cow’s milk is rich in probiotics. This is because it is unpasteurized and not processed like the cheese present in the market. It contains live and active cultures of bacteria that survive the aging process.
Some types of cheese that you can consume are cottage cheese, gouda, mozzarella, and cheddar. It is a good source of protein and is rich in selenium, B12. As per a study, a hard piece of cheese contains around 8 grams of protein with a heaping 180mg of calcium.
Buttermilk refers to a fermented dairy drink made from leftover liquid after making butter. It is mostly consumed in Asian countries like India, Pakistan, and Nepal.
Traditional buttermilk is simply the liquid that remains after the churning of butter. It is extremely rich in probiotics and is often referred to as grandma’s probiotics.
Cultured buttermilk is mainly found in supermarkets. It is pasteurized and may not have any probiotic benefits.
Miso is a widely used side dish in Asia, especially in Japan. It is a paste made from fermented soy with brown rice, rye, or barley using the gut-friendly fungus called Koji mold or Aspergillus oryzae.
In Japan, middle-aged women consume miso as miso soups and it is used in traditional medicine as it could help in reducing breast cancer risk.
You can add a variety of foods that contain good amounts of good microbiota. If you find eating these foods alone plain and boring, you can get creative and look for easy recipes to try using probiotic foods.
Probiotic foods may have a quick and strong effect on your body. So, be mindful of the portions you eat. Adding a few servings of probiotic foods with each meal can be a healthy start. In case you feel that your body cannot tolerate foods rich in this bacteria, immediately discontinue the consumption and speak to your doctor. Also, do not replace your supplements with these foods without consulting your healthcare provider.
Rachel has been a freelance medical writer for more than 18 years. She graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 2005 and is currently practicing as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist at a Level I trauma center.